Edit: After this post went live, I was contacted by Trillium’s director of marketing Mike Dyer, who stated that the brewery does not blame customers for exploding beer cans, “nor have we ever blamed our customers for this situation.” He went on to say that customers affected by ruptured cans did indeed receive refunds, saying the following:
“When we first learned of customer issues we immediately responded to each of them directly to learn more about the circumstance, refunded them for their purchase, and started an internal lab review. Upon further review of a random sample of packaged cans we identified that some had trace amounts of yeast that could become active if the package was stored warm vs. cold. Within the day we issued guidance to our customers to store the beer cold, and would provide a credit for any remaining beer they had. (to date we have issued about a dozen refunds to customer’s cards). Is there room for improvement with this process? Yes of course, there is with any process. We have identified adjustments to our flash pasteurization process and instituted additional testing steps throughout QA.”
It’s good to hear that monetary refunds (rather than store credit) were indeed offered, even if it’s odd that this wasn’t mentioned in the initial public statement posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The original post, meanwhile, follows below.
It’s the latest chapter in an argument that has been raging through the craft beer community for several years now: Who’s really at fault, when beer cans start exploding? In eras past, this seemingly would have been an easy question to answer—it’s the brewery’s responsibility, of course. They’re the one putting out that product and standing behind it, after all. But in an era of obscenely fruited sours that are filled to the brim with unfermented sugars, when the craft beer scene has increasingly abandoned any kind of moderation or subtlety in its releases, hyped breweries have somehow managed to change the conversation, increasingly shifting the burden of responsibility onto consumers rather than themselves. The last few years have been rife with the stories of exploding cans of milkshake IPA or “smoothie” sours, and the resulting argument over who’s to blame has often divided the online community.
Count us among those who don’t believe breweries should be in the business of releasing flawed, potentially dangerous exploding beers, by the way. It’s a state of affairs that wouldn’t be tolerated in other industries—imagine if you were served a burger in a restaurant, and told that if it exploded due to your improper eating or handling methods, it was your own fault. To quote Jeremy Danner of St. Louis’ 4-Hands Brewing, who tweeted the following back in 2018 when he was a longtime representative of Boulevard Brewing Co:
That about sums up our personal feelings on the matter, but it’s still shocking to see new cases of exploding cans crop up, and then witness a beloved brewery disavowing all responsibility and placing the blame at the feet of its own customers. And that’s what’s been happening this week with Boston hazy IPA kingpins Trillium Brewing Co.
As acknowledged by the brewery, stories began to spread online recently of cans of several different varieties of the brewery’s Daily Serving, a heavily fruited Berliner weisse, exploding in consumers’ homes. This happens due to the normalization of adding fresh fruit purees and sugars directly to the finished beer before packaging, in a never-ending quest for maximum fruit flavor. The only problem is that those unfermented sugars are just waiting to be converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide, and it only takes a tiny bit of yeast or bacteria to do so, turning a can into a potential bomb. And despite the efforts of breweries like Trillium to prevent this from happening, it’s still occurring with alarming frequency.
The breweries are obviously aware of this possibility, which is inherent to any beer filled with residual sugar. Even the press photos for beers like Daily Serving depict an explosion of beer radiating out from the can—no doubt implying an explosion of fruit flavor, but ironic nonetheless.
When cans DO start to explode, however, one might expect the breweries to respond by issuing an apology, or offers of refunds for anyone who purchased those beers. Instead, in response to these most recent can explosions, Trillium put out a statement that focused on the need for consumers to store these cans in cold temperatures, implying that it’s totally unreasonable to expect the brewery to put out a shelf-stable product. Likewise, they offered customers the opportunity to return cans for “credit towards a future purchase upon request,” rather than actually offering refunds. They also go on to imply that because their own cold-stored cans haven’t yet exploded, that’s apparently more than enough assurance that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the product.
If you actually bought these cans for yourself, the brewery has this to say: “Any cans of Daily Serving: Blackberry, Plum, & Raspberry stored warm should be inspected for bulging and disposed of quickly to ensure they do not make a mess.”
At no point in the statement do the words “sorry,” “apologize” or “refund” appear, which makes the message clear enough: They take no responsibility for this product, possibly because they’d be making a case for potential litigation if they publicly admitted fault. Better to continue establishing a precedent that it’s the customer’s job to keep cans from exploding, rather than the brewery’s job.
Trillium is hardly the only company that has had such issues, as well-publicized incidents at breweries like 450 North, Evil Twin, Hoof Hearted, or The Veil have made exploding cans into a common storyline in recent years. But that doesn’t mean beer drinkers should need to accept a brewery’s potentially dangerous failures as an acceptable aspect of doing business. There are many breweries, after all, who have figured out how to reliably produce these beers without any exploding can incidents … although if you ask us, the issue is also indicative of a beer style that is unsustainable in its clumsiness, but trying to keep drinkers from seeking out sugar bombs is a losing battle.
In the meantime, we’ll be standing alongside the drinkers who aren’t willing to let this kind of thing slide. We leave you in the hands of Lead Brewer Peter Anderson of Chicago’s Metropolitan Brewing—a company I believe would never try to shift the blame for a problematic beer. Enjoy that, and some more choice tweets below.